Hulda Einarsdottir, MD, is one of five Yale Medicine surgeons who is board-certified specifically in colorectal surgery. She performs surgeries of the colon, the rectum and the anus to treat cancer, as well as for such benign diseases as diverticulitis and inflammatory bowel disease. She also specializes in the management of pelvic floor disorders for men and women.
“These are problems patients are often embarrassed to discuss,” Dr. Einarsdottir says. “Often they’ve dealt with these problems in silence for a long time, and they are miserable. I let them know that many other patients have these problems, and, in most cases, we can take care of it.”
Patients often worry that part of the treatment will be colostomy, a procedure to temporarily or permanently divert one end of the large intestine through the abdominal wall where feces can be collected in a pouch. Sometimes it is a necessary part of the treatment, she says. But, “in many cases, we’re now able to reverse it later and put the patient back into continuity, as it’s called.”
Dr. Einarsdottir, an assistant professor of surgery (gastrointestinal) at Yale School of Medicine, uses minimally invasive approaches whenever possible. “This has been proven in multiple studies to have added benefit to the patient, in terms of postoperative recovery, length of stay, less pain and smaller scars, which have a cosmetic advantage,” she says.
She recalls one patient who came to the hospital with a large bowel obstruction that was keeping stool from passing through. “This had actually been going on for several months prior to this emergent situation where the colon was completely blocked. To get her past the acute stage, we performed an emergency surgery where we gave her a colostomy to decompress the colon. Six weeks later, we removed the constriction and put the bowel back together. Now her quality of life is better than it was before surgery. This is what makes it all worthwhile,” Dr. Einarsdotter says.